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How to save Africa
I've been reading (and re-reading) a book recently called "The
End of Poverty: How we can make it happen in our lifetime" by a guy
called Jeffery Sachs. Jeffery Sachs is the Special Advisor to UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan and, according to the New York Times, "probably
the most important economist in the world".
The book has changed the way I think about development
He talks about how to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of
ending extreme poverty by 2025. The leaders of the world
embraced the Millennium Development Goals at a UN summit in New York in
September 2000, but few have followed through on their promises
This page contains a brief summary of how to achieve the goal of
ending poverty by 2025.
All facts and figures mentioned below come from the 2005 edition
of the book.
1st September 2006
Just about all of the villagers I have met and talked to have been
extremely poor. Their sustenance farms are no longer providing
them enough food to live on and they are going hungry. They used
to be able to afford fertiliser and pesticides, but market forces have
placed them well out of their reach.
All of their income goes to consumption, just to stay alive.
They are unable to save, the costs of goods continues to rise and their
families just keep getting bigger. This all leaves them in the
evil feedback loop that is the poverty trap. Without help, they
will just get poorer and poorer.
The solutions to their problems are not unknown. They are well
known, simple and attainable. They are:
- Agriculture Inputs
Fertilisers, improved fallows, green manures, cover crops, water
harvesting, small scale irrigation and improved seeds.
- Investments in Basic Health
A village clinic with a doctor and a nurse, anti-malarial bed
nets, anti-malarial medication, sexual health services,
antiretroviral medicine for late stage HIV/AIDS, birth attendants
and a range of other simple health services.
- Investments in Education
Meals for all children at primary school, free primary education
including consumables such as school uniforms and textbooks,
expanded vocational training, HIV education, malaria education and
the use of technology such as mobile phones and computers.
- Power, Transport and Communication Services
Electricity via a power-line or an off-grid generator to be used
for: pumps, a light bulb in every home, refrigeration, grain milling
and carpentry. A village truck to bring goods back and forth from
the market and the sick to hospital, a shared mobile phone.
- Safe drinking water and sanitation
Enough water points to provide safe and convenient drinking
Hmm. This seems like a lot. How much would all this
The United Nations has estimated that to get the extreme poor out of
the poverty trap will require $US70 per person per year over the next
twenty years. This will allow the poorest of the poor to begin to
climb the economic ladder of success. This equates to 0.7% of the
GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the developed world per
If you are earning $400 per week, for example, that would 0.7% of
your personal GDP would be $2.80 per week. The money would be paid
directly by your government. Every developed country in the
world has promised 0.7% of GDP but so far only the Netherlands, Norway,
Denmark, Sweden and Belgium have followed through. Every other
country is falling woefully short.
The U.S. has the biggest
economy and also provides the biggest shortfall with a pitiful 0.15% of
their GDP. It is interesting to note that the U.S. is
spending thirty times more on the military than they are on foreign aid.
The U.S. always looks bad when you're adding up these figures - and
rightfully so - but they are not they only ones. My own country of
New Zealand is also falling short of
delivering on its promises. A good way to pressure the New Zealand
government to follow through on its promises is to pester them.
I've written an email to the prime minister of New Zealand, the R.H.
Helen Clark that went like this:
Dear Mrs. Clark,
I am writing to urge you to support increased development assistance for the world’s poorest countries. Around the world, more than one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Every thirty seconds, an African child dies of malaria. Millions of people lack access to safe water or sanitation. These terrible problems can be solved, but only if we take urgent action to meet the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed objectives for eliminating poverty in its many forms.
The United Nations Millennium Project recently released a report called Investing in Development, available at
http://www.unmillenniumproject.org. I urge you to read it, and to act on it. It shows that the problems of global poverty have practical, proven solutions: things like insecticide-treated anti-malarial bed-nets, soil nutrients and improved agricultural techniques, and the training of community health and agricultural extension workers. We don’t have to stand by and let poverty destroy the lives of yet another generation. We can end poverty if we take steps now.
To end poverty, we have to invest in solutions, some of which will save and improve lives almost immediately. For example, eliminating user fees for primary health care and basic education has drastically improved access to schools and clinics in Uganda. Others, like training nurses and teachers, will take time, but are no less important. But these things all cost money. The good news is that it won’t take much, at least not compared to how much we have promised to provide. Our country has committed to spending 0.7% of national income – a pittance – on eliminating poverty, but we haven’t come anywhere close to keeping that promise.
I believe we live in a country that should keep its promises and commit to investing in the elimination of global poverty. I ask that you make the fulfillment of our 0.7% promise a high priority and propose a timeline for our country to meet our commitments by 2015. If we can do this, the world stands a good chance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Please let me know what you plan to do to make sure that our generation succeeds in ending poverty.
Thank you very much,
Content of the email originally sourced from here.
Feel free to copy and paste it and send it to your Prime Minister or
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2005 and 2006 Malcolm Trevena.
All the stuff on this site is written by me, Malcolm Trevena. Feel free to
link to this page. Heck, you can even copy stuff from here if you
want. Just make sure you sight me as a reference.